Mar 23, 2008


I am one of those people who loves the Chinese symbol for "crisis": A combination of the symbols for "danger" and "opportuntity".

Except that it doesn't exist. Via Hanzi Smatter, a blog "dedicated to the misuse of Chinese characters in western culture" - sometimes hilariously - I have come across an essay by Victor H. Mair that explains what the Chinese symbol for crisis really means. It's combined of "danger" and "crossroads", not "danger" and "opportunity". Those ancient Chinese weren't such die-hard optimists, after all.

Which brings me to another erroneous belief Westerners have of the Chinese: That they believe two women under the same roof means disharmony.

Not the case. Hanzi Smatter calls it simply a hoax. Perhaps started as a joke. "If the symbol of one woman under a roof means peace [which it does in Chinese], then what's two women under one roof?" "War!" (Insert laughter.) The character with two women under one roof simply doesn't exist in Chinese.

That brings me to an error in Norwegian: "Kvinner er kvinner verst," which translates roughly to "women do women the worst". I was introduced to this phrase in the 80's, when women's networking was the new rage, and we females were all trying to learn to encourage each other rather than gossip about each other. Apparently, only women backbite, get jealous, sabotage. Research has shown a couple of things, however. Men do gossip and backbite and can feel resentment at other's success as much as women do (if not more, since men are inclined to be more competitive). Also, the original saying is, "Humans do humans the worst", which makes more sense, but most Norwegians don't know the original saying any more.


Sparkling Red said...

I've known a lot of gossipy, critical men. Humans do humans the worst. Sad but true!

Keera Ann Fox said...

I've known that kind, too. Most of what we do is because of our personality or background. I get a bit tired of pop culture categorizing certain behaviors as belonging to only one gender - or one Sun sign, for that matter.

Sravana said...

Thanks for the link, Keera. Lots of good fun, a cautionary tale for someone who would like to use the Kanji for "jade" in her logo. :o

Keera Ann Fox said...

What I learned from Hanzi Smatter is that unless you know the language - and its attendant culture - you're better off not using it.